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  • Published: 2 May 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761047671
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $22.00

The Sparrow

A powerful new historical novel from one of New Zealand’s best-loved YA authors

An exciting new novel from the author of Alex.

In September 1840, two ships arrive on the shores of the Waitematā Harbour to establish Auckland, the new capital of New Zealand. Among the settlers on board the Platina is young Harry, travelling alone and determined to return to family in England. But the more immediate challenge is finding food and shelter — and hiding the truth about Harry’s real identity and what was left behind in Van Diemen’s Land.

  • Published: 2 May 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761047671
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $22.00

About the author

Tessa Duder

TESSA DUDER trained as a journalist and has published more than forty works of fiction, non-fiction and anthologies for both children and adults. Her debut novel Night Race to Kawau (1982), recently re-issued in a 40th anniversary edition, was followed by the classic young adult novel Alex
(1987) published in five languages and adapted for a 1993 movie. Recent works include biographies of Margaret Mahy, Sir Peter Blake and Auckland’s pioneering ‘First Lady’ Sarah Mathew. Her latest is about the charting of New Zealand by James Cook and in 2019 the four Alex books were published
as Alex the Quartet.

Her awards include a number of children’s fiction prizes, the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship to Menton, an Artists to Antarctica award, the OBE and in 2021 the CNZM. She holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Waikato and won the 2020 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (Fiction) She serves on the board of the Storylines Children’s Literature Trust of New Zealand Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki o Aotearoa and was for twenty years a Trustee of the Spirit of Adventure Trust. She has four daughters and two grandchildren and lives in Devonport, Auckland, where she enjoys sailing, concertgoing, teaching creative writing and reading.

Also by Tessa Duder

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Praise for The Sparrow

This historical fiction novel is the best I have read about the European settlement of New Zealand aimed at any level. It is well researched and stresses a fact that is often overlooked by historians – that without the Maori early New Zealand settlement would have been impossible. The Maori provided the settlers with food and shelter without which they would surely have starved. . . . The best book I have read this year and Tessa Duder’s first novel in 20 years. Keep writing Tessa.

Bob Docherty, Bob's Book Blog

The Sparrow is a dense, committed novel that shines its light strong on the fate of girls and women treated extremely badly in a shameful era of our history. Mistakenly convicted, housed in conditions that wouldn’t meet animal welfare standards today, Harriet perseveres. Her resilience seldom falters, and she is determined to expose the injustices that bring her to Auckland, so she can begin to build her own life. But the reader is left with the feeling that history, in this novel, is the real story, and that trumps all.

Erica Stretton, Aotearoa NZ Review of Books

Someone had to tell the tale of the Female Factories, those Australian workhouses for female convicts, and who better than Tessa Duder? Her knowledge of tall ship sailing alone would qualify her to write this sometimes harrowing transTasman survivor story. . . . Duder has a history of writing solid, likeable characters and Harry, the Sparrow of the title, is no exception. Thoroughly grounded in the geography of her setting, every step her hero takes between the three bays that made up the original Auckland shoreline is utterly convincing. . . . A perfect fit for the new histories curriculum.

Ann Packer, NZ Listener

Five stars: This would have to be my favourite of Tess Duder Young Adult novels yet. Meticulously detailed and gripping, The Sparrow is a historical tale that spans 12,000 miles, genders, the rich and poor, people of good character and bad, over 4 years and three countries. The reader will see the very beginnings of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, once deemed the capital of a new colony in the years of 1839-1840. Harriet is a brave character, doing all she can to survive terrible hardships forced upon her in spite. She has a strong sense of what’s right over pompous superstition and prejudice and stands her ground. Unfortunately this will be her downfall more than once. This novel is told in two timelines that connect at the end – and what a conclusion! Many of the characters are based on real people and the major events are taken from historical records. This is not only an insight into Aotearoa New Zealand’s early days, but a riveting story too.

WhatBookNext.com, Goodreads

Awards & recognition

Storylines Notable Book Award

Awarded  •  2023  •  Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction

NZ Booklovers Award

Shortlisted  •  2024  •  NZ Booklovers Award for Best Young Adult FictionBook

Discover more

2023 Storylines Notable Books List

The highest quality books in five genres published between August 2022 and November 2023.

Top Penguin kids books that tie into the new history curriculum

Read on for book recommendations that tie into the new NZ school history curriculum

Teachers' notes